Cash concerns raised over children's social services in Powys

Concerns have been expressed by a councillor that more money will be needed by Powys County Council’s Children’s Social Services in 2022/23.

Councillor David Thomas
Councillor David Thomas

The comments were made at a meeting on Thursday, December 9 when the need to ready £1.854 million to be transferred from other council accounts to the department was agreed.

The transfer is known as a virement and the departments needs’ the promise of the money to ensure it can operate to the end of this financial year.

At the end of October, the financial report for the second quarter of 2021/22 (July – September) revealed an alarming prediction that the £26 million budget would end up £1.8 above its allocation.

Councillor David Thomas said: “I’m concerned because the pandemic is still ongoing and we’ve heard there might be the possibility of more restrictions with the new Omicron variant.

“In all probability these pressures are going to continue in to next (financial) year, is there any consideration as to how this will be managed?

“Because the council’s budget management reserve is set at just over £4 million and we’re already proposing to spend nearly £2 million of that.”

“We need to be prepared.”

Head of finance Jane Thomas said: “We do recognise there could be additional funding we could use first, and we would explore all those opportunities before we would draw on the reserve to finalise the budget position.”

To allow time to search for the extra funding, Ms Thomas explained that the money transfer would be delayed until the end of the financial year instead of handing the cash over now.

She added that the details of funding needed by departments for next year would be looked at once the Welsh Government financial settlement for local authorities is known.

Earlier on, children’s social service portfolio holder Councillor Rachel Powell had explained that while the number of children in care had fallen there was a “cohort” of young people with complex needs that require extra help and that comes with “additional costs.”

Chairman of the Health and Care scrutiny committee Councillor Amanda Jenner told councillors that in a confidential meeting her committee had been briefed on the situation.

Councillor Jenner said:  “The committee were informed of a small number of children with the most complex needs.”

Councillor Jenner told councillors that the children’s team had tried to find “suitable and affordable” placements for these children, but it had been “impossible in a small number of cases.”

Councillor Jenner said: “It’s unquestionable not to not provide the support needed, it’s court ordered and necessary to keep some of our most vulnerable children safe.”

One of the problems with these costs is that there has been an expectation that Powys Teaching Health Board would contribute.

Powys chief executive Dr Caroline Turner said: “It’s an important matter and  we’re close to completing those discussion with the health board.

The virement was approved by a silent vote with Councillor Karen Laurie – Parry  abstaining.

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